John's Journal... Entry 53, Day 3
EDITOR'S NOTE: To consistently catch very big catfish, you must have the knowledge of where to find and how to catch these monster-sized fish. In many lakes and rivers throughout the United States, catfish weighing more than 50 pounds cruise the bottoms.
The late Otis "Toad" Smith from Sibley, Iowa, probably was one of the few men who ever caught a catfish with his own heart. After a very serious heart operation where a portion of Smith's heart was cut away, Smith went fishing for catfish, one of his favorite pastimes. Smith had told the doctors before the operation that he wanted to keep whatever portion of his heart they cut out. He said his heart belonged to him.
Smith kept the part of his heart in a glass jar filled with formaldehyde. One day after he came home from the hospital, he looked at the piece of his heart in that jar and decided his heart should perform some useful function. He poured the formaldehyde out and replaced the liquid with Fish Formula's Catfish Scent. The first time he went fishing, he took a piece of his old heart from the jar, baited it on a hook and cast it out into the river. In just a few minutes, he caught an 8-pound catfish.
Toad Smith knew how to catch big catfish and had developed a system of taking large flathead catfish that weighed over 50 pounds on the Minnesota River. He fished at night using large blue chubs or suckers for bait. He searched for deep holes in the river that had brush piles or large boulders in them -- the kinds of places where big flatheads held during daylight hours.
According to Smith, one of the best ways to locate these holes that homed big flathead catfish was to float the river in a small boat and fish for channel cats in the deep holes. If he didn't catch channel catfish in the hole, then he'd know a big, flathead catfish was there because a flathead catfish that weighed more than 30 pounds would eat a 3-, 4- or 5-pound channel cat.
After Smith found a hole like that, he would return to that spot in the river at night and cast live bait out on the shallow side of the hole along the edge of the deep water. He wanted his bait in the shallows but still near the drop. He used a muskie rod and either an Abu Garcia 6500 or 7000 or a Penn 2009 or 3009 reel. He preferred reels that free-spooled but that had star drags and clicker systems on them.
Smith would set his rods out on the bank and wait on the catfish. When dark approached, he cast his baits out to the edge of the hole and then sat. At night, big flatheads came out of the holes and moved up onto the shallow flats to feed on the baitfish. That's when Smith caught them.
Smith checked his bait several times during the night to make sure the bait was alive. He knew the big flatheads could sense a bait from some distance and that a flathead generally wouldn't take a dead bait. Smith liked to fish with big chubs called sucker chubs that were 10- to 12-inches long. He cut the chub's tailfin almost all the way off, which forced the chub to swim harder to stay upright. Then he used a razor blade to nick the chub all along its side to allow the chub's natural juices to flow out into the current and call the big catfish.
Smith utilized a No. 5 Eagle Claw hook, put a split shot about 10 inches up the line and then placed a 2- to 4-ounce sinker above the split shot. The split shot prevented the sinker from sliding all the way down to the hook and let the bait swim freely on the end of the line while being held on the bottom. On a good night, Smith often caught from 20- to 25-big flatheads that weighed from 15 to 50 pounds each.
To learn more information about catching catfish, go to Night Hawk Publications' Home Page, click on books, and then go to fishing books to see John Phillips' "The Masters' Secrets of Catfishing." You can buy the book by sending a check or a money order for $13.95 to Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243 or use a credit card by calling (800) 627-4295.
Tomorrow: William Ratteree